The advent and growth of African broadcasting was marked by the introduction of the “Saucepan Special: The Poor Man’s Radio” in 1948. Taking its name from its nine inch round aluminium casing which made it look like a saucepan, the ‘poor man’s’ radio could pick up stations in the three countries of the Federation (Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland) as well as Congo and the BBC.
Today, the world of broadcasting has drastically changed as audiences and writers alike increasingly call for a more varied and representative approach to the industry.
Recently, streaming giant Netflix announced the production of its HYPERLINK "https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/netflix-announces-first-original-african-animated-series-mama-ks-team-4-1" \t "_blank" first original African animated series – Mama K's Team 4 – written by Zambian writer HYPERLINK "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35tQCd3iBMo" \t "_blank" Malenga Mulendema. Malenga was one of the eight winners of the 2015 Triggerfish Story Lab initiative, a talent hunt for African storytellers. This achievement has been lauded across the film industry as an amazing opportunity for Zambian creatives to be put on the map.
Mama K's Team 4 tells a story of four teenage girls living in a futuristic version of Lusaka. The girls are recruited by a former secret agent to save the world.
Malenga’s inspiration is drawn from her childhood having grown up watching animated children’s programmes and wondering why none of the heroes looked like her.
"In creating a superhero show set in Lusaka, I hope to introduce the world to four strong African girls who save the day in their own fun and crazy way. Most importantly, I want to illustrate that anyone from anywhere can be a superhero," she says.
With a history of over fifty years of local broadcasting, Malenga’s win is not just a personal one but also a win for the local industry and has brought a sense of pride and excitement.
Film and TV director, producer and writer Becky Ngoma explains that this achievement shows the capability of Zambians and has helped breakdown creative barriers, both mental and international.
“I applaud Malenga for getting associated with a huge platform like Netflix. It’s a huge breakthrough for Zambia as a nation and as a film industry, It shows capability that we have great ideas that can be consumed internationally. Up until now Zambians haven’t tapped into animation as a method of storytelling, unlike our international peers. It shows that we should never be limited in our perspective.
Malenga’s breakthrough means that our local borders are no longer a barrier. Sometimes we limit ourselves by only thinking locally, instead of aiming to tap into the global market.”
Mama K’s Team 4 signifies a steady growth in Zambia’s media industry and has triggered a call for creatives to develop more quality content and not shy away from telling local stories with a global appeal.
Becky, who is writer and director of Zambia’s first telenovela Zuba, co-writer of the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA) winning TV series Love Games, director and co-writer of ZAFTA award winning TV series Fever, details that the angle of this new animated series is potent.
“I love this project because of the angle it is built on. It shows Zambian superheroes, African teenagers and characters that young people can relate to. With home grown characters and stories that show that youths are the drivers of their own stories. Half our population are young people and it’s a great opportunity to show young people that they can be what they want to be. Four Zambian teenagers are shown doing something to change their future and they can grow up looking to these characters and believing that change is possible and they have the power to enforce it.
In addition, Becky reveals that Mama K’s character brings to mind a quote from Investment Professional Jito Kayumba who said ‘if you want something said tell a man, if you want something done tell a woman and if you want something changed tell a youth’.
“Dwelling on these two parts the story actively dwells on these drivers of change as it is currently relevant with the world population having more women than men, to see these individuals as protagonists is a huge game changer,” she says.
However, this triumph has not only been recognised by the creatives behind the scenes. Media Practitioner, creative and lead actress of the Zuba fame Mwaka Mugala explains that Malenga’s feat is something to be greatly encouraged as it will breed more prospects for international collaboration.
“It’s a step forward and the fact that it will be on Netflix it opens up more opportunities to access more content created by Zambians and hopefully will be seen by Zambians as an opening to create quality content that can be used to collaborate with more international film industries.
The Zambian film and TV industry is steadily growing and Zambians both in front of the camera and behind the scenes are getting recognised for their efforts and it would be great if we moved at a faster pace,” Mwaka says.
The Mama K Team 4 series is produced by award-winning South Africa-based studio, Triggerfish Animation, and London-based kids and family entertainment specialist, CAKE.